The Mi-8MTPR-1 Russian military helicopter is important in electronic warfare (EW) operations against Ukrainian air defense systems. The helicopter is a modification of the military transport helicopter Mi-8MTV-5-1. The official designation Mi-8MTV-5PR of the aircraft reads Pomekhovyi, Rychag, which means jamming a helicopter using the Rychag system.
These helicopters are hovering inside Russian-controlled territory at more than 10,000 feet to prevent being shot down. In the video below, a soldier describes how the Rychag system neutralizes all forms of air defense in the surrounding area, allowing Russian strike planes to go further into Ukraine.
The Rychag-AV EW system jams the enemy’s surface-to-air missile (SAM) system fire-control radars. The Kaluga Research Institute of Radio Engineering (KNIRTI) developed the Rychag-AV system. KNIRTI developed the Rychag system with its L187A jammer, which is manufactured and installed on helicopters by the Kazan Optical and Mechanical Plant (KOMZ), which is part of the Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET).
The Mi-8MTPR-1’s current cargo/passenger hold is divided into two parts. The hardware for the Rychag-AV system is housed in the front section, which is smaller, while the system operator’s station is in the back section, which is noticeably bigger. The system’s four antennas are placed on either side of the fuselage.
The two front antennae act as receivers and direction finders, identifying the kind and location of enemy radars. The two back antennas are radiation-emitting transmitters that aim to obstruct the radars seen. A flare launcher on each side of the fuselage is also mounted in one of the rear windows.
According to a preprogrammed setting, the Rychag-AV system can operate independently without requiring manual intervention. This uses a memorized database of adversary radars to identify effective jamming techniques. In manual mode, the operator assesses the general electromagnetic surroundings and picks the targets to be jammed, as opposed to semi-automatic mode, where the operator selects the jamming techniques.
Mi-8MTPR-1s from Ostrov and Khabarovsk and possibly other units have participated in the Ukraine conflict, according to accessible imagery in which the helicopters’ numbers have been smudged to conceal them.
The Mi-8MTPR-1 is Russia’s newest EW helicopter. It is presently the only one in production and the only model still used by the Russian military. However, the Soviet Union built many EW helicopters, most based on the Mi-8 design.
The Soviet air forces began using Mi-8 models equipped with electronic countermeasures (ECM) and electronic intelligence in the early 1970s. For example, the Mi-8PPA and Mi-8SMV-PG helicopters were used by Russia in the 2008 conflict with Georgia.
However, the Mi-8MTPR-1 Rychag’s performance in the ongoing battle in Ukraine is unclear. The Mi-8MTPR-1 might be considered mostly ineffective, at least in terms of the overall context of air combat, based on the continuous substantial losses inflicted on Russian aviation. Overall, it seems that Russia’s significant electronic warfare capabilities have had varied outcomes so far.